Chinese Philosophy

Edited by JeeLoo Liu (California State University, Fullerton)
About this topic
Summary Chinese philosophy is built on the metaphysical assumption that qi (traditionally translated as “material force” or “vital energy”) pervades the Universe and all things are composed of qi. This ontology leads to a conception of the world as an organic whole, in which everything is interconnected – from nature to the human world, from inorganic objects to sensible things. Chinese philosophers had a purely this-worldly concern; their goal was to improve on the world given. Originated in the primitive form of nature worship, ancient Chinese developed a sense of admiration and affection towards the natural world around them. This religious spirit prompted a philosophical pursuit of the order of the universe and the ontological foundation for all existence. Ancient Chinese thinkers had an intense desire to find the best way to make the right political decisions, to alleviate social problems, and to properly conduct themselves. Sociopolitical philosophy and ethics are thus the two core areas in Chinese philosophy. At the same time, since social structure, political polity and human conduct should all cohere with the cosmic order, Chinese philosophy is fundamentally rooted in its cosmology. This cosmology is manifested mostly in the philosophy of the Yijing. Chinese cosmology is built on the belief that there is a cosmic order or cosmic pattern, which serves not only as the source for all existence, but also as the governing rule for all cosmic developments. This pattern was commonly referred to as ‘Dao’ by ancient philosophers. The pursuit ofDao would become an ultimate goal shared by all Chinese philosophers. Under the holistic cosmic picture, the cosmic order also governs human affairs. Consequently, Dao takes on a normative connotation: it signifies the right way for human affairs and the normative principle for human conduct. In this sense, Daostands for the highest moral precept for human beings. There are three main branches in Chinese philosophy – Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. Each school has its distinct answer to the quest of ultimate reality and the roles humans should play in this world. To educate others what constitutes virtue and to inspire others to act in accordance with Dao, was thus the self-assigned mission for most Chinese philosophers.
Key works The first systematic introduction to Chinese philosophy is the two-volume set Fung Yu-lan 1997, first published in the 1930s. This book is arguably the most influential introduction to the history of Chinese philosophy, even though some of Fung’s analyses are often contested by contemporary Chinese scholars. The two-volume set has been translated into English by Derk Bodde (Feng & Bodde 1937). A condensed and more accessible version of Fung’s History is also translated by Derk Bodde (Feng 1948). Among Chinese scholars, Lao 2005’s thee-volume (in four books) set is widely respected and frequently consulted. A more recent and analytic introduction to Chinese philosophy is Liu 2006. This book does not cover the history of Chinese philosophy beyond Chinese Buddhism, however. Mou 2008 has a more comprehensive coverage of all eras in the history of Chinese philosophy, but at the cost of sacrificing philosophical details. For readers who cannot read primary Chinese texts, Chan 1963 is a good source of representative selections of Chinese philosophical works.
Introductions

Chan 1963 provides a comprehensive coverage and fairly representative selections of all major philosophers or philosophical schools in Chinese history. The editor provides succinct introductions for each selection. It is a must-have sourcebook for scholars who can read only English, even though the old-fashioned Wade-Giles spelling of Chinese names in this book could create confusion for beginners.  

Feng & Bodde 1937 provides a comprehensive coverage of various schools in the history of Chinese philosophy. At times, the introduction is packed with quotes, with little analysis. It is nonetheless an authoritative introduction to this date.

Feng 1948 is not just an abridgment of Feng & Bodde 1937. Fung wrote this short history with the aim to give a complete picture of Chinese philosophical history in a nutshell. This book is far more accessible and interesting than Feng & Bodde 1937. Originally published in New York: Macmillan, 1948.

Lao Ssu-Kwang勞思光, Xinbian Zhongguo Zhexue Shi新編中國哲學史. 3 volumes. Guangxi, China: Guanxi shifandaxue chubanshe, 2005.

There is no English translation of this three-volume set. This is a revised version of Lao’s famed History of Chinese Philosophy (Zhongguo zhexue shi 中國哲學史), originally published in Hong Kong: Youlian chubanshe, 1968. Lao’s History provides detailed logical analysis of the philosophical problems and theories of all the schools covered in this book. It is widely referred to by Chinese scholars.

Liu 2006 provides an up-to-date introduction to Chinese philosophy in the analytic style. In its analysis of primary texts, it also reflects topics and discourses on Chinese philosophy in contemporary scholarship in English. The scope of this book covers classical philosophical schools and four major schools in Chinese Buddhism.

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  1. Preface: Beauty and Aesthetics in Chinese Philosophy.Chung‐Ying Cheng - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):3-5.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  2. Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth‐Century German Thought. By Eric S. Nelson. [REVIEW]Jean‐Yves Heurtebise - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):126-129.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  3. Intercultural Difference and Intercultural Critique: A Reply to Jean‐Yves Heurtebise.Eric S. Nelson - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):130-134.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  4. Finding Hope and Certainty: Wang Bi's Commentaries on the Yijing.Tze‐Ki Hon - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):84-102.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  5. Twelve Basic Theological Concepts in Kant and the Compound Yijing.Stephen R. Palmquist - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):103-122.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  6. Introduction: Chinese Aesthetics in the Contemporary World.So‐Jeong Park - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):6-11.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  7. Understanding the Analects of Confucius: A New Translation of Lunyu with Annotations. By Peimin Ni. [REVIEW]Deborah Sommer - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):123-126.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  8. Aesthetics of Attentional Networks: Chinese Harmony and Greek Dualism.Sandra A. Wawrytko - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):12-30.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  9. Musical Metaphors in Chinese Aesthetics.So‐Jeong Park - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):31-48.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  10. The Concept of Zhong 中 in the Baoxun Testament 《保訓》: Interpreted in Light of Two Chapters of the Yizhoushu 《逸周書》.Cao Feng 曹峰 - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):49-65.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  11. Confucius’ Life Experience, Idea of Happiness, and Moral Autonomy: A Study on Qiong Da Yi Shi 《窮達以時》 and Other Literatures.Zhongjiang Wang - 2020 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 47 (1-2):66-83.
    Journal of Chinese Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  12. Confucian Democrats, Not Confucian Democracy.Shaun O’Dwyer - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-21.
    The notion that if democracy is to flourish in East Asia it must be realized in ways that are compatible with East Asian’s Confucian norms or values is a staple conviction of Confucian scholarship. I suggest two reasons why it is unlikely and even undesirable for such a Confucianized democracy to emerge. First, 19th- and 20th-century modernization swept away or weakened the institutions which had transmitted Confucian practices in the past, undermining claims that there is an enduring Confucian communitarian or (...)
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  13. Shusterman, Richard, The Adventures of the Man in Gold: Paths Between Art and Life. Photographs by Yann Toma.Ellen Y. Zhang - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-6.
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  14. Y i Gan’s Inclination Toward The Learning Of The Mind-Heart In The 18th Century: A Comparison With W ang Yangming’s Mind-Heart Philosophy.Byeongsam Sun - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-17.
    The study of Joseon 朝鮮 Neo-Confucianism has recently given some attention to an inclination toward the Learning of the Mind-Heart, and Yi Gan 李柬 is at the center of this research. He was an outstanding disciple of Gwon Sang-ha 權尙夏 and a successor to the philosophical spirit of the Yulgok 栗谷 School; he is renowned for initiating the Horak 湖洛 Debate through his controversies with Han Won-jin 韓元震. In “A Thesis on the Not-Yet-Aroused State,” Yi asserted that the mind-heart is (...)
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  15. The Mohist Notion of Gongyi.Yun Wu & Amin Ebrahimi Afrouzi - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-19.
    The Mohists develop the concept of yi 義 to denote what is morally right in a normative sense. We argue that this concept has, as one of its necessary conditions, a requirement to not harm others. Additionally, we will show that the motivation of developing this concept is that it can be both universalized and publicly agreed upon, thus serving the Mohists’ endeavor to overcome human conflicts that make the world chaotic and unlivable. We argue therefore that the Mohist notion (...)
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  16. Straightforward Reading, Injective Interpretation, and Scientific Implication: On the Mencian Theory of Human Nature.Xiaogan Liu - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-18.
    This experimental essay intends to analyze interpretational cases related to the understanding of the Mencian theory of human nature. The first part introduces straightforward reading by a representative sinologist, historian, and philosopher. The second part discusses two examples that reinterpret the Mencian theory in an injective way with the Kantian theory and processing philosophy, respectively. The third part reexamines our understanding and evaluation of human nature in the Mencian theory using new discoveries of experimental psychology. The claim that there exists (...)
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  17. Duh, Bau-Ruei 杜保瑞, The Views of Truth in Chinese Philosophy of Life 中國生命哲學真理觀.Lin Ma - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-4.
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  18. Hsieh, Shu-wei 謝世維, Syncretic Traditions of Daoism and Esoteric Buddhism: A Study on Daoist and Esoteric Buddhist Cultures 道密法圓——道教與密教之文化研究.Shiyang Weng - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-4.
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  19. Pang-White, Ann A., trans., The Confucian Four Books for Women.Lili Zhang - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-5.
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  20. Yeo, K. K., Musing with Confucius and Paul: Toward a Chinese Christian Theology.Wei Hua - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-4.
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  21. “What Did the Emperor Ever Say?”—The Public Transcript of Confucian Political Obligation.Shu-Shan Lee - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-20.
    The idea that imperial Confucianism demands the commoners’ absolute political obedience is widespread. Although some scholars have tried to challenge this popular idea, they leave a theory of imperial Confucian political obligation unaddressed. By engaging with political propaganda of the Qing 清 dynasty, specifically The Amplified Instructions of the Sacred Edict, I argue that imperial Confucian political obligation is a theory of paternalistic gratitude. Accordingly, the commoners’ political obligation is conditioned upon the ruler’s parental benevolence, and as a matter of (...)
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  22. Xie, Xiaodong 謝曉東, Human Nature, Good Government, and Justice: On Pre-Qin Confucianism and Classical Liberalism 人性、優良政府與正義——政治哲學視角下的先秦儒學與古典自由主義研究.Huilan Zhu - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy:1-4.
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  23. The Good Life Today: A Collaborative Engagement between Daoism and Hartmut Rosa.Paul J. D’Ambrosio - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):53-68.
    Hartmut Rosa’s research has been extremely influential in promoting the view that modernity and late modernity are characterized by “speeding up,” or structural “dynamic stabilization.” More recently, Rosa has turned to describing the existential effects of living in late modernity, and the particular view of the good life it encourages. Late modernity began with the promise to make the world more available, attainable, and accessible. Unfortunately, however, the high-level instrumentalization that characterizes these changes led to feelings of alienation. Rosa’s solution (...)
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  24. Reversing the Stream: Virtue Politics and Moral Economy in Neo-Confucian Korea.Sungmoon Kim - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):69-90.
    This article investigates the Neo-Confucian project of “reverse moral economy,” which aims to restore the ideal congruence between political power and moral virtue, by examining a political debate on the selection of the new Crown Prince and the incumbent ruler’s subsequent abdication that took place in Korea during the formative period of the Chosŏn 朝鮮 dynasty in light of the so-called “the Mencian trouble,” a compromise between Mencius’ ideal vision of Confucian virtue politics and his realistic concern with political stability. (...)
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  25. Strategic Sages and Cosmic Generals: A Daoist Perspective on the Intertextuality of the Daodejing and the Sunzi.Thomas Michael - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):11-31.
    This study examines the intertextuality of the Daodejing 道德經 and the Sunzi 孫子 by exploring one possible horizon that can shed light on the intellectual environment of their early circulations. A preliminary section examines the early doctrinal movements of what would later be recognized as Daoism and Militarism by triangulating them with the early doctrinal movements of what would later be recognized as Confucianism. This is followed by a consideration of the possible ways in which the early “authors” of the (...)
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  26. Responses to Hutton, Kim, and Loy.Siufu Tang - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):139-144.
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  27. King, R. A. H., The Good Life and Conceptions of Life in Early China and Greco-Roman Antiquity: Berlin/boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2015, 402 pages.Paul Carelli - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):149-152.
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  28. Remembering by Heart: Giulio Aleni on the Heart, Brain, and Soul.Dawei Pan - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):91-111.
    Unlike similar works, Xingxue Cushu 性學觕述 by the Italian Jesuit missionary Giulio Aleni sought to deliver the Christian doctrine into China by introducing Western medicine. The conflict between the Christian concept of the soul and the traditional psychic concept in China made the task difficult. Scholasticism rejects the idea that an individual’s soul may be physically divided or localized, whereas the Chinese tradition largely assumes the contrary and regards the heart as the center of one’s psychic powers or vitality. Aleni (...)
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  29. Wang, Hongyin 王宏印, The White Horse Is Not a Horse: A Critical Analysis of the G ongsun Longzi from Logical, Philosophical, and Linguistic Perspectives 白馬非馬: 《公孫龍子》的智慧——邏輯學、語言學、哲學三維解析.Shuang Qian - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):165-170.
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  30. Working toward Global Justice: Confucian and Christian Ethics in Dialogue.Andreas Rauhut - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):33-51.
    Faced with the ongoing tragedy of poverty in our world today, many have long called for a common standard of global justice. Such a standard should not be tied to any one particular strand of justice conceptualizations and it should yet be in harmony with the central motivating beliefs of the various concerned moral worldviews. The article reframes global justice thinking by approaching a core problem, namely motivating people to care for distant needy strangers, in a concrete intercultural manner: it (...)
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  31. Natural Autonomy, Dual Virtue, and Yin-Yang.Michael Slote - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):1-10.
    Feminists have argued that autonomous thought and decision-making are attained through respectful parenting and are blighted or destroyed when the parenting is disrespectful or abusive. However, it can be argued that young children are already capable of thinking and deciding things for themselves, so when sexist or abusive parenting leads to an adult incapable of such autonomy, the parenting or other social influences have destroyed what was originally there. It turns out, too, that the thinking and deciding sides of autonomy (...)
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  32. Makeham, John, ed., The Buddhist Roots of ZHU Xi’s Philosophical Thought.Wing-Cheuk Chan - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):153-157.
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  33. Marchal, Kai, and Carl K. Y. Shaw, eds., Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss in the Chinese-Speaking World: Reorienting the Political: Lanham: Lexington Books, 2017, vii + 281 pages. [REVIEW]Po-hei Lau - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):159-163.
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  34. Guan, Zhiguo 關志國, Research on the Philosophy of Law of the Daoist Huang-Lao School 道家黃老學派法哲學研究: Beijing 北京: Zhongguo Shehuikexue Chubanshe 中國社會科學出版社, 2016, 239 pages.Ji Li - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):145-148.
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  35. Yang, Lihua 楊立華, Yiben and Shengsheng : Outlines of Monistical Li 一本與生生: 理一元論綱要.Huanyou Li - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):171-174.
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  36. Comments on Siufu T ang ’s Self-Realization through Confucian Learning.Hui-Chieh Loy - 2020 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (1):133-137.
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  37. What is a Relational Virtue?Sungwoo Um - 2020 - Philosophical Studies:1-17.
    In this paper, I introduce what I call relational virtue and defend it as an important subcategory of virtue. In particular, I argue that it offers a valuable resource for answering questions concerning the value of intimate relationships such as parent-child relationship or friendship. After briefly sketching what I mean by relational virtue, I show why it is a virtue and in what sense we can meaningfully distinguish it from other sorts of virtue. I then describe some distinctive features of (...)
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  38. The Introduction of Minbenzhuyi and the Return of Its Traditional Chinese Meaning.Xiaobo Lu - 2019 - Cultura 16 (2):67-88.
    The concepts of Minben 民本, Minbensixiang 民本思想, and Minbenzhuyi 民本主义 are rather popular in current Chinese discourse. However, “Minben” was hardly found in Chinese ancient literature as a noun. Around the year of 1916, “Minbenzhuyi” became widely accepted in Japanese intellectual circles, interpreted as one of the Japanese versions of democracy. In 1917, “Minbenzhuyi” was transferred to China as a loanword by Li Dazhao and developed into one of the Chinese definitions of democracy. Nevertheless, Chen Duxiu questioned the meaning of (...)
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  39. Rethinking Mozi’s Jian’ai : The Rule to Care.Youngsun Back - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):531-553.
    Mozi’s 墨子 doctrine of impartial care has been interpreted predominantly through the lens of Mengzi 孟子, that is, as “love without distinctions” versus “love with distinctions.” However, I think Mengzi saw only half of the picture, as his focus was exclusively on the difference between Confucianism and Mohism in regard to the scope, intensity, and sequence of love. In this essay, I argue that Mozi’s impartial care is also characteristically different in kind from the Confucian notion of humaneness. My analysis (...)
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  40. Yang, Lihua 楊立華,Unified Ground and Continual Generation—An Outline of Lixue Ontology一本與生生: 理一元論綱要: Beijing 北京: Sanlian Shudian 三聯書店, 2018, 197 pages.Yves Vendé - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):655-658.
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  41. Nelson, Eric S., Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century German Thought: London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2017, v + 343 pages.Jason M. Wirth - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):647-650.
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  42. Ye, Shuxian 葉舒憲,Laozi and Myth老子與神話: Xi’an 西安: Shaanxi Renmin Chubanshe 陜西人民出版社, 2017, 294 Pages.Lijuan Zhang - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):659-663.
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  43. A Confucian Solution to the Fungibility Problem of Friendship: Friends like Family with Particularized Virtues.Chenyang Li - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):493-508.
    When asked why we are friends with someone, we often point to her good virtues as reasons. If these are the reasons, we have equal reasons to be friends with anyone with such virtues, and we can even replace current friends with anyone with the same or better virtues without substantive loss in friendship. However, it does not seem right that a particular friend is replaceable by just any other person with the same or better virtues. This is the fungibility (...)
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  44. The Emergence of the Notion of Predetermined Fate in Early China.Yunwoo Song - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):509-529.
    This essay depicts the emergence of the notion of predetermined fate in early China by focusing on the changing meaning of the word ming 命. Many scholars have long interpreted the term ming in the Lunyu 論語 as a kind of inevitable fate, but I show that it is still subject to change depending on the will of an anthropomorphic Heaven. In the Warring States period, however, Heaven became increasingly conceived as following fixed patterns in its behavior, and the growing (...)
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  45. The Wandering Heart-Mind: Zhuangzi and Moral Psychology in the Inner Chapters.Carl Joseph Helsing - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):555-575.
    This essay examines the concept of the wandering heart-mind in the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi 莊子. This essay examines the problems caused by a collection of behaviors in the heart-mind: the ability to make distinctions, the tendency to fix distinctions and language, and the need to act for the sake of fixed ends. Zhuangzi treats these problems with emptying, wandering, and mirroring. These techniques release the heart-mind from fixation and conflict, enabling the heart-mind to respond to conditions without acting (...)
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  46. Reply to Michael Harrington.Joseph A. Adler - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):639-639.
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  47. Rethinking Mozi’s Jian’ai: The Rule to Care.Youngsun Back - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):531-553.
    Mozi’s 墨子 doctrine of impartial care has been interpreted predominantly through the lens of Mengzi 孟子, that is, as “love without distinctions” versus “love with distinctions.” However, I think Mengzi saw only half of the picture, as his focus was exclusively on the difference between Confucianism and Mohism in regard to the scope, intensity, and sequence of love. In this essay, I argue that Mozi’s impartial care is also characteristically different in kind from the Confucian notion of humaneness. My analysis (...)
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  48. A Response to Joseph Adler.Michael Harrington - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):637-638.
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  49. Cheng, Yi, The Yi River Commentary on the Book of Changes. Edited and Translated by L. Michael Harrington. Introduction by L. Michael Harrington and Robin R. Wang: New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019, Xiv + 560 Pages. [REVIEW]Joseph A. Adler - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):631-636.
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  50. Weakness of Will and Davidson’s Paradox of Irrationality: A Response to Zheng.Alfred R. Mele - 2019 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18 (4):597-602.
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